Cries crawl through the floorboards and up the bedpost. I pull the sheet atop my head to stop the sound tugging at my ears. I try to slip back into my mind to alleviate this pressure building in my chest, the cries around me only making it heavier. To calm myself, I dream of my parents cradling me to sleep, too distracted loving me to take that last sip of wine. But the sounds keep drowning me, making it impossible to drift off in their arms. I squeeze my eyes harder, like a naive child who thinks it’ll make reality pinch them awake. I want this dream to be real, but reality at the moment is only giving me needy noises clinging to my perspired body.
I push away my blanket hoping it’ll push the sounds with it. As I crack my lids open, I expect to see some shadowed monster come from under my bed, or from the closet, like in any typical child’s nightmare. What I see are Silhouettes running across the window, making the room’s walls look like a dark sea of mysterious creatures. A hair standing howl disturbs the cries. Jumping up, the fright pulls my feet across the room, and before I realize it, I’m staring through the window.
There they were. Stray dogs rummaging through the dirt, dancing with their jaws to rip each other's dress of disarrayed fur. Their blood decorated their lips like mother’s lipstick on a night after a cocktail party; Bared with vicious remarks. I tuck my breath in my throat, afraid the slightest sound would make my presence known. I do this like I do when I’m afraid mother and father’s late night exchange may turn sour. I’m afraid my voice might tip over their glass of patience, so I become mute and hidden.
Each curled snap makes the window slowly disappear until there is only what feels like an arms length distance that separates us. My mind has sucked me into the brawl of their fight, every tear and every growl sowing a fear into my feet that keeps me paralyzed. I want to be back in my room, and in my bed where I can pretend I’m dreaming. Though my feet have already been sown to the floor, forcing me to observe this massacre. Their eyes are so lifeless, and absent. The only signs of life are the red veins enhancing the crazed look of rage. These strays weren’t raised to love comfortably but to survive ruthlessly.
A creaking door cuts the thread from my feet and I’m back in my room. “Why is there so much ruckus this late…” Mother’s voice was groggy, muffled by her hands trying to rub her hangover away. She closes the blinds and heads back to bed. When she was gone, I look through them, and back at the fight. All I see is the victor limping off with food they had been fighting over. The other was no where to be seen, his pride probably between his bloodied legs.
That morning, I awoke to a sleepy headache and foggy vision. I wonder if this is how they wake every morning, unable to remember the night before, yet ironically fully aware of the light pouring through that crack in that crinkled blind, or the squeaky noise the fan makes whenever it makes its sixth turn around. When I go into the kitchen mother is sitting at the table as father is at the stove cooking eggs. She’s wearing her large, dark, sunglasses, the ones that make her look like a wasp the way it shapes her narrow, sharp, face. I never thought of myself looking liker her, my face more on my father’s side. Thicker cheekbones and a round, small, chin. I do have her eyes though, which always worried me. If I were to become angry, would someone see me the way I see her? Bloodshot and crazed, as if all remnants of myself are turned to ash by the flame inside them.
“Honey, can you pour me a glass?” Father stiffens, and piles the scramble eggs on a plate, pretending like he didn’t hear the question. “Honey…..please,” Father was boiling water, its heat bubbling smoothly like when you blow your straw into milk.
“Is this necessary this early in the morning?”
“What do you mean is it necessary? I have a splitting headache. Isn’t that reason enough?” The water was blowing out a soft steam, just nearly ready. Mother takes off her glasses to rub her temples, obviously aware of the sound it was making.
“Maybe if you didn’t drink so much the night before you wouldn’t need to drink in the morning.” Mother opened her eyes, red veins making them resembles ruby gems shimmering a soft flame.
“Fuck you! You’re such a fucking hypocrite.” Her voice overpowered the now screaming water. I backed myself into a corner, trying so hard not to interject. All I wanted was for them to hold me. If they held me they wouldn’t want to fight. They wouldn’t be able to take that sip of rage.
“This is what you do! You did it with our daughter and now to me! Stop blaming everyone and start looking at yourself!” I then saw it. I saw the strays, their wild fight inhabiting their faces like an infestation. Their jaws danced, bare teeth screaming profanity like they were blades. I whisper to myself, trying to hone in on the squealing water, its noise just barely able to push through their screams.
“stop…” I keep repeating those words until I’m screaming it at the top of my lungs. I feel like I’m just blowing air through water, slowly drowning with my own words. My voice is the last to echo in the room when I see them staring at each other, speechless. The kettle’s just now awkwardly spurting out air, barely any water left to make a noise. Mother backed herself into a cabinet, her hands shaking at her twisting face.
“I’m sorry…” She mumbled through spit, her quiet moaning making her look like a child with a skinned knee. When they saw each other, I could see the strays were gone, their pride in between their legs. Their eyes were clearer than they had been in forever. Father sat down with her, his face lost in the kitchen fan’s blades. “It’s my fault...It’s all my fault,” She spurt out, punching her knees with each repeat. He grabs her fists, pulling her into his crinkled plaid shirt, stained from bacon grease and now mother’s snot. Mother’s hand touches my necklace tied around her neck, my name decorated in a water worn metal. With the touch, I can feel their hands around me, as if to lift me from this constant drowning, my soaked body steaming their aggressive fire. Their eyes were finally looking at me, instead of distracting their grief with intoxication.
“It’s no ones fault….” Father says, his tears soaking through mother’s stringy knot of hair.